So you just got yourself a fancy new computer and all you know about the web is that you probably need to be there. This month I will attempt to answer the most commonly asked questions regarding establishing a web presence on the internet.

If you already have a site that is drawing a lot of traffic and positive feedback - or if you have zero interest in promoting yourself or your business on the web - you can probably skip this month's column.


What does a web-site cost?

This is by far the most frequent question directed at me - and one of the hardest to answer as there are so many variables. Generally speaking, the costs of a web-site can be broken down into three categories:

Design - expect to pay $50-$200/page for capable web design without a lot of bells and whistles. You can keep these costs down by submitting text content on disk and high-quality artwork for scanning.

Server - once your site has been created it must be uploaded to a server. You can find commercial servers easily on the net or use the services of your local isp (internet service provider). You will probably also want to acquire a domain name (i.e. mypage.com). If you go this route, you will pay $50/year for your domain name, a small set-up fee, and anywhere from $20-$100/month for server space.

The alternative is to place your pages within the folders of a collection of related sites commonly called a "mall." If your target audience is people coming to SPI, then it is a good idea to be part of an SPI Mall site. Mall sites typically charge a flat monthly fee for serving your page or creating a link to it.

Maintenance - Some sites do not need to be updated periodically - but they are in the minority. A neglected web-site soon becomes a "cobweb-site" and will attract less traffic. The most economical way to keep your page updated is to do it yourself. A web-master will typically charge $100-$300/month to keep your pages up to date.


Can I do all of this myself?

Absolutely - assuming you have the time and the equipment - all the information and tools you need can be found on the internet for free. It takes some digging, but you can find free graphics, counters, message boards, chat rooms, free submission sites... even servers that will give you free space if you are willing to put their banner on your page.


Okay. My page is up and running but no one's coming by. How do I get more traffic?

Submission is the key to web dominance. =) Everyone knows they need to submit URLs to the top search engines as soon as their site is up and running - a process that can take weeks and sometimes months. A capable web master will do that as part of the design package or for a small extra fee.

But do not be afraid to toot your own horn. Surf the web for the smaller indexes and pages that relate to yours and try to get them to link to your pages. Put your page's URL in your signature file so that every e-mail you send has your web address on it. Use your URL in your print advertising every chance you get, nominate your page for awards, and place banners on related pages. Make sure the site has a guessable URL - one that sounds okay on the radio and is easy to see on a screen or moving bus. Use meta tags to specify descriptions and keywords. Use professional writers to compose 50 word blurbs. Design buttons for other sites to use as links. Fill out guest books and leave links to your site.

All of this can be quite time-consuming, but you will start seeing results almost immediately. Need more detailed information? My e-mailbox is always open!

There are five (5) ways to submit your questions/comments for future Ask Sandy columns: In person; by phone (761-6222) or fax (761-8930); the US Postal System (box 2694,spi,78597) and E-mail: (sandyfeet@unlitter.com). Visit my web-site (http://www.south-padre-island.com) for tips on sandcastling, contest info, recent Ask Sandy columns, and my reviews of local businesses.

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